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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful for the support for the order given by both noble Baronesses. I stayed up all night to learn these

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technical terms and I am slightly critical of the fact that the noble Baronesses have not followed me in doing such important homework. I recognise, of course, that there are other demands upon their time. I am grateful that I do not have to refer to any drugs other than GHB in my response to the points that have been raised.

As to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, about consultation, the document was put on the Home Office website. We are talking about drugs which have been banned by the International Olympic Committee, and no respectable sports organisation of the kind to which the noble Baroness referred will be unaware of the implications of using the additional restricted drugs. Any work such organisations undertook in preparing, training and helping their athletes would be null and void—and, indeed, shameful—if drug tests were failed. We expect such organisations to act responsibly and to be aware of the prohibited list.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I accept what the Minister has said. But it would have been a useful exercise to gather information about the extent of the problem and for appropriate educational information to be passed down through such organisations once these substances are put on the banned list.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I shall deal with that point when I discuss the more general issues raised by the noble Baroness.

The point in regard to the International Olympic Committee is obvious; we do not need to carry out research on the uses to which substances are being put. If the International Olympic Committee is firmly of the view that these are performance-enhancing drugs which would give a competitor an unfair advantage and, perhaps even more important, threaten the long-term health of the competitor, that is good enough for us and we shall take steps to ensure that the drugs are probibited.

The noble Baroness raised a more general point of how we address the issue of drug use. This is a modest order on which to engage in such a debate—I am probably one of the least qualified members of the Government to participate in such a debate—but I recognise the point she makes.

Prohibition is not the only answer, but, when they have clear evidence in regard to these eight substances, the Government would be remiss if they did not take steps to make clear that they are to be prohibited and will be subject to the full force of the law.

I have considerable sympathy with the noble Baroness's point that we need to pay a great deal more attention to the need for education and information to make people aware of the consequences of using recreational and performance-enhancing drugs. That goes without saying. The noble Baroness indicated that one or two other countries—she referred directly to the Netherlands—have followed a different range of drug strategies in recent years. We have watched the situation in such countries very carefully indeed. We

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are eager to learn from the developments in regard to the control of drug abuse in a number of countries. However, the messages from the Netherlands about the effectiveness of its strategies are not ones of unalloyed joy. But there are points to be noted. I agree with the noble Baroness that where international forums—such as those in the Netherlands and Portugal—put forward different perspectives, we should keep an open mind and support strategies where we see fit.

In a month's time or so we shall have an opportunity to discuss the Criminal Justice Bill when the significance of a reduction in the classification of cannabis can be debated within its framework. There will be many opportunities to discuss the issues raised by the noble Baroness, and a recognition by the Government of the validity of some of the points she has made. But mere prohibition and the imposition of the harsh nature and full rigour of the law does not always produce the desired effects in society.

As the noble Baroness said, these eight drugs, particularly GHB, have often been associated with highly illegal activity. However, the media often emphasise and dramatise small incidents associated with the use of a particular drug. I do not say that the issue revolves around a particular use of GHB but, nevertheless, these are substances which, both at international level and in terms of our judgement, need to come within the restrictions proposed in the order. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Prevention of Driving under the Influence of Drugs Bill [HL]

1.30 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

I should like to give my thanks to and acknowledge briefings from the Automobile Association, the British Medical Association and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. I also caused an Internet search to be done which produced relevant information from so many sources that I think I had better not list them. I simply comment that some of my reading encouraged me in my decision to assist with this Bill before the House.

I should also say that I am very much a proxy for my noble friend Lord Attlee. He is serving somewhere in the Gulf but, I am quite sure, had he been available, he would have been doing this job. I am sure we all wish him good fortune and a speedy return. I say that because during the passage through this House of the Police Reform Act 2002, when I was on the Front Bench, my noble friend brought forward a specific amendment to create the offence of driving under the influence of drugs. At that time he was proposing the use of saliva testing. There were question marks over the technology, and, in the end, that amendment was not proceeded with. But it is indicative of his specific interest in all matters related to transport and in this subject.

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Since that time, right honourable and honourable friends in another place have continued to study the problem. The result is this Bill. It was introduced to another place and given an unopposed First Reading on 12th March by the honourable Member Mr Nick Hawkins. This Bill overcomes the problems of my noble friend's earlier attempt and merits most favourable consideration.

One might assume from a cursory examination of the situation vis-a-vis driving while under the influence of drugs that the problem was already covered. Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states:

    "A person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence".

I simply note two things: first, one has to prove unfitness to drive. Secondly, it is generally not appreciated by most of the public that under that Act and in law, no distinction is made between alcohol and drugs. Neither is any distinction made between controlled drugs, which are banned, and prescribed drugs, which are, of course, approved. That is one of the reasons why, with the exception of alcohol, whose use is easily detected, that section has largely not been taken into account and implemented by the police in general, although of course there have been specific cases.

I hope we can agree that we should leave prescribed drugs out of this discussion. We certainly left it out of the Bill. That is not to say that there could not be a problem, but it is a separate issue. This little Bill affects only controlled drugs.

The reason we have brought the Bill forward is very simple: we live in an age of the increasing use of so-called recreational drugs among the younger generation. In recent surveys, almost half of all 16 to 24-year-olds had used cannabis at least once. While the Government's attitude to cannabis may be somewhat equivocal, to say the least, as long as it is on the controlled drugs list, it must be included. In any event, it has the capacity to incapacitate a driver to a greater or lesser degree. Some 39 per cent of people in that age group had tried hallucinogens. Other hard drugs were somewhat less of a problem. That is one measure indicating an increasing background problem.

There is some rather awkward anecdotal evidence that seems to indicate a general belief that recreational drugs do not cause loss of driving ability. Because they are not so easily detected, they are believed by some to be less risky to drivers than alcohol. That may be an attitude, but it is an attitude which is prevalent.

There is a worse attitude which I have picked up from one of my Internet reports. There is some evidence that serious drug users will use alcohol if they are going to drive so that if they get stopped they will be liable to be investigated and examined only for driving under the influence of alcohol. They will then be subject to the much less rigorous but, in some ways, more precise investigation that takes place where alcohol is concerned but not the sort that would take place if it was known that they were taking drugs.

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What, then, if we can measure it, is the precise scale of the problem? We are uncertain because there is no requirement for coroners to keep relevant statistics on drug use in post-mortem examinations for road fatalities. An important part of the Bill is to ensure that proper statistics are kept, so that we know precisely what is going on. We feel that the coroner should produce an annual report for his area on fatal accidents involving drivers who have tested positive for controlled drugs. We think that the police should do the same for injury accidents as well.

What do we know? The best indication of the scale of the problem comes from two surveys by the Transport Research Laboratory testing for alcohol and controlled drugs in people involved in fatal accidents in a specific part of the country. It took two periods—1985 to 1987 and 1996 to 1999. Over the two periods surveyed, the detection of cannabis went from 3 per cent to 12 per cent, while the detection of other controlled drugs went from 3 per cent to 18 per cent. That is now a historic examination, but it is a clear indication of trend, certainly the only one we have. If that trend has continued since that time, we should all be concerned.

We come now to the meat of the Bill. Clause 1(1) creates a new offence:

    "A person is guilty of an aggravated offence if he drives a motor vehicle on a road while under the influence of any controlled drug in Class A, Class B or Class C of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971".

That removes the impediment in the Road Traffic Act 1988 that makes the Bill so difficult to enforce. Driving with drugs in the system will be an offence and impairment will not have to be proved.

Your Lordships will of course have noted that the Bill later calls for a field impairment test and blood sample. The recent field impairment test is not to prove that drugs are present or that the driver is unfit; it is to prove that the driver might be under the influence of drugs. The blood test is where the proof will come from. That is a valid system, which will mean that a driver under the influence of drugs who is stopped can be properly tested for the presence of drugs in his system. That will be the offence. These are rigorous, identifiable and enforceable criteria.

Last year's National Drugs Conference of the Association of Chief Police Officers recommended more research into the extent of the problem, drug recognition training for officers and a simple, cheap but effective roadside screening test. One benefit of my Internet search was that I discovered that that would be available in the reasonably near future. The conference also recommended a removal of the requirement to prove impairment and a zero limit for drug driving. The Bill goes a considerable way in meeting the recommendations. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Dixon-Smith.)

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1.41 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, for introducing this interesting and worthwhile Bill. I am grateful to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents for kindly providing me with some briefing on it. I should declare an unremunerated interest as RoSPA's current president. The noble Lord, Lord Brougham and Vaux, a previous president of RoSPA, asked me to say that he agrees with the support that I am giving to the Bill.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said in his eloquent opening speech, the evidence suggests that the use of illegal drugs while driving is a growing problem. He referred to the tests carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory over two decades. Despite the clear increase in the use of cannabis and other controlled drugs that was shown by those tests, it remains unclear what proportion of accidents, deaths and injuries are caused, or partly caused, by drugs impairing the ability and judgment of the road users involved. Not least, that is because alcohol was also present in many of these cases, as the noble Lord said. That obviously has an even greater effect on people's ability to drive than does the drug itself.

Cannabis constitutes two thirds of the illegal drugs detected, and certainly affects driving behaviour for a period after its consumption, resulting in impaired co-ordination, visual perception, tracking and vigilance. Cannabis can stay in the body for up to 28 days, but obviously does not impair driver performance for anything like that amount of time. Roadside detection devices are being developed, although the diversity of the drugs being used makes it difficult to produce a single breathalyser-type test.

People generally accept that they should not drink and drive but probably are unaware of the effects of drugs, both illegal and prescribed, on their driving ability. Millions of people regularly take drugs such as anti-depressants, painkillers, antihistamines and cough mixtures, all of which can have a sedative effect, and yet most of those people probably believe that it is totally safe for them to drive after taking them.

A retired police officer, to whom I spoke earlier today about the noble Lord's Bill, told me that it was not uncommon early in the morning to see drivers nod off at the wheel while waiting for traffic lights to change. He told me that that was a consequence of perfectly legal drugs being taken the night before, such as a sleeping pill, or an antihistamine for a hayfever sufferer. Once drivers relax at the lights, when their concentration can be reduced, the drug's soporific effect kicks in. Clearly, people should be advised not to drive after taking drugs that cause drowsiness. However, that is not an easy message to communicate, especially not in the context of this Bill, which is aimed at people who drive after taking controlled drugs.

The new sentencing guidelines for causing death by dangerous driving, or by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, published by the Lord

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Chief Justice yesterday, are particularly relevant here. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, is quoted as saying that,

    "normally the only appropriate sentence for an offender found guilty of these offences is a custodial sentence".

Many police forces are training their officers in field impairment testing and drug recognition training to help them to recognise the physical signs of drugs use, which would provide sufficient evidence to arrest a suspected drug user and take them to the police station for further tests. These developments should be supported, and are contained in the noble Lord's Bill. The drivers most likely to be drug users are also those with the highest accident risk—young drivers who are inexperienced, who are most likely to take risks and have poor driving attitudes. That is a particular worry.

As the noble Lord said, there is a need for much more research into the whole area of drugs and driving. We need to know much more about which drugs and medicines are being used by drivers and the effect of them on drivers' performance and accident risk. I, too, did some research on the Internet, and I discovered a Department of Transport paper, which states:

    "Research in this area has been impeded by methodological, legal and ethical problems. Specifically, there is no standard experimental paradigm, no consistency in reporting format, dose administration or detection method. In short, the research strategy to evaluate the effect of cannabis has been piecemeal. Consequently, firm and reliable conclusions cannot be drawn".

The introduction of an education and publicity campaign to make people—especially groups who are most likely to use controlled drugs—more aware of the dangers of driving while under the influence of them, would also be most desirable. The truth is that the role of both legal and illegal drugs in road accidents is complex and, at the moment, largely unknown. If that ignorance is remedied and research is carried out as a result of the noble Lord introducing his Bill, it will have been worthwhile. I am happy to support it.

1.47 p.m.

Viscount Simon: My Lords, I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, has introduced this Bill. Hearing his introduction has made me much more convinced of its necessity.

I should, perhaps, declare, as I always do, that I am the holder of a police class 1 driving certificate; that I trained and tested advanced motorists in Australia; I am a member of the IAM; I am a council member of the Guild of Experienced Motorists; and I regularly go out on traffic patrol with various constabularies.

Both noble Lords who have spoken referred to the Transport Research Laboratory report 495, which is important and highly relevant to the future of this Bill and to future Bills. Legislation already exists to prevent drivers from driving under the influence of drink and drugs. Initial trials conducted by the six police forces that undertook special training concluded that the drug influence recognition training—DIRT—is useful, and the field impairment test—FIT—can be put in place to assess the impairment levels of drug users.

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At this stage, I should mention that the daughter of friends of mine, who was 16, was killed by a driver while she was walking along the pavement. The police wanted to test this 16-year-old for drugs. There she was—dead—and they wanted to test her for drugs. I hope that the Bill will rectify that anomaly, because the police said that they could not test the driver for drugs, as it could be construed as harassment. That is appalling.

Of course, some prescription drugs can enhance people's ability to drive in the short term but will, in time, reduce and adversely affect that ability. Notwithstanding this, we must not lose sight of the fact that there are many more drivers involved in collisions who are over the drink-drive limit.

Some police surgeons are frequently placed in a difficult position when called to see a prisoner. They have to determine whether that person has driven a motor vehicle while under the influence of drink or drugs. There can be a very fine line when conducting tests as to whether the word "influence" is appropriate or whether it should be substituted with the word "impaired". The majority of drivers who drink alcoholic refreshments—if I can put it that way—have been told that they may take a certain number of units before there is a likelihood of being over the limit. I suggest that that should be put the other way round: any alcohol impairs the ability to drive, and there is a finite limit which should not be exceeded.

Similarly, that has to be the primary course taken with drugs be they prescribed or illicit. More and more people are taking recreational drugs without taking into account the possible effect that those drugs might have on driving a motor vehicle. They should be warned of the consequences of drug driving. In reality, however, will they take any notice of such warnings? I very much doubt it.

Now that I have got that off my chest, I shall return, albeit briefly, to the Bill. The insertion after Section 40A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 requires a driver suspected of committing a moving traffic offence to take a field impairment test or have a blood sample for analysis or both in order to establish whether or not that driver's ability to drive is impaired due to taking a drug. However, without any sanction, should the suspected person refuse "without good cause", the provision would be fraught with problems—and therefore, at the moment, of little relevance.

It seems to me that, as the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, the purpose of the Bill is more concerned with the gathering of information and funding than anything else. However, if that leads to other, more specific legislation sometime in the future, it has my full support.

1.52 p.m.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, from these Benches we welcome the Bill and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, on his initiative in bringing it before the House.

About a year ago, my party published its policy paper on drugs. I was the chairman of the working party that put the policy together. An important

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chapter in that paper laid down as our party policy pretty much what is in this short but important Bill. However, it also included, in a way that the Bill does not, reference to the impairment of driving after using legally prescribed drugs. It recommended that the police should undertake roadside tests to detect whether the driver has any impairment that prevents him or her from driving safely. It recommended also that further research should be done and evidence gathered. Most importantly, however, it recommended that the public should be made aware of the dangers of driving when their judgement could be impaired by any drugs, either prescribed by a doctor or used recreationally or even illegally.

I hope that the House will forgive me if I briefly repeat some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. I do so only to underline how much I agree with him on many of the points that he made.

Unfortunately, there is such a wide range of drugs used in this country that, even if quick roadside test kits were available, they would fill up the whole boot of a police car and the officer would never know which one to use. So the sensible thing is to look at the effect rather than the cause. That is what the Bill describes as a field impairment test.

Despite the fact that more research needs to be done and more information gathered, it is pretty obvious that we have a major problem with drug-affected driving. A recent survey of club goers in Scotland found that 85 per cent of them had taken drugs and then got in a car to drive home. Almost one person in every five who dies in road accidents has some sort of drug in their system.

Knowingly or unknowingly, many people are driving under the influence of drugs which have very serious effects. Cannabis extends the perception of time and amphetamines shorten it. Both can affect response times. Amphetamines can make a person more confident and aggressive—an unfortunate attitude when you are behind a wheel. Prescribed sedatives such as Valium and Temazepam slow a person down, as does alcohol. Sleeping pills, some antihistamines, some flu cures and mental illness medications can affect the ability to drive safely. As the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said, research by the Transport Research Laboratory has shown an increase in prescription and over the counter drugs in the bloodstream of accident victims. And yet the general level of awareness among the public about this danger is very low.

However, the field impairment tests can really work and the training for officers is very effective. Fifteen officers in the Thames Valley Police, for example, have been trained to do the tests, which include checking the eye pupil size, testing the perception of 30 seconds, ability to walk a straight line, stand on one leg and touch their nose with their fingertips with their eyes closed—but not all at once, I trust. Some of us might feel that we could not do that even when stone-cold sober. However, those simple tests are very effective as an indicator of impaired ability to drive safely. It is

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also important for officers to be able to detect whether a suspect has been using particular types of drugs. Some officers have undergone the drug influence recognition training and a study at the Transport Research Laboratory in Crowthorne has supported the value of that, saying that it has a very high success rate.

However, following the field impairment test, it is important that further tests are done to ensure that a driver has genuinely taken a drug that impairs his judgement. There are unfortunately, as has been mentioned, some problems with blood tests. Drugs such as GHB—the so-called date rape drug to which we referred in the earlier debate—disappear from the bloodstream in 12 hours, making it very difficult for the police to prove that it has been administered to a rape victim. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, said, cannabis can give a positive blood test many days after it was taken and can be detected long after its real effects on judgement have gone away. Those tests therefore need to be very carefully interpreted.

I welcome the part of the Bill that asks for the reporting of fatalities by coroners and police. However, it must be remembered that fatalities are only the tip of the iceberg, because cars are much safer these days, protecting the driver with airbags and anti-crumple body frames. Also, the better trained paramedics with good quality equipment can often save a life if they get there quickly, thank goodness. We need more information than just fatalities, which is why I welcome Clause 2(2)(b).

The Government are clearly aware of the problem, since one of the questions that drug action teams have to answer is,

    "Please detail how you propose to address drug use by road users?"

However, in addition to the Bill, what is clearly needed is a big public education programme and clearer warnings on the labels of medicinal drugs about their potential to affect driving. Many organisations, such as the fire service and the British Standards Agency, have also shown their desire for more information and help to deal with this problem. I know that because they are two of the many agencies that have approached Councillor Diana Buckley Carpenter, from Wokingham, an enthusiastic and effective campaigner on this subject following a bad accident that her daughter suffered. I am grateful to her for the very helpful information she has provided to me over the past several years. Hard working though she is, however, we cannot just go on relying on the good will, commitment and knowledge of people like her to provide agencies with the information they need on this important subject.

Perhaps the Minister can tell us what resources the Government plan to make available for education programmes in this subject. I hope that he will give an encouraging welcome to the Bill and I look forward to his reply.

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1.59 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith on introducing the Bill and on putting the case so convincingly. When my honourable friend Mr Nick Hawkins introduced it last month as a 10-minute rule Bill in another place, he made it clear that he had the full support of the Conservative Front Benches in both Houses. He also pointed out that the work he is doing is supported by the AA, the RAC Foundation and the BMA. I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, that the work is supported also by RoSPA.

As my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith has made clear, we have had the benefit of debating these issues on a previous occasion, led by my noble friend Lord Attlee when he moved an amendment to the Police Reform Bill last year. The amendments he put forward then are as relevant today and have been elucidated carefully by other noble Lords.

After all, society now generally takes a dim view of drink-driving. There is no sympathy for a motorist convicted of drink-driving. However, as noble Lords pointed out, many motorists are very much unaware of the potential effects of drug-driving on their driving ability. They lack knowledge of the legal position in relation to drug-driving. Indeed, it is a serious offence. Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 covers drug-driving. It covers,

    "A person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence".

Some may ask why we should go further—I noted a quizzical look on the face of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey—as the law already covers this issue in relation to all drugs, irrespective of whether they are controlled drugs prescribed by doctors, that may have an impact upon a person's ability to drive. The law currently makes no distinction between illegal and prescribed drugs. It does not state a limit for drugs levels as it does for alcohol. That is partly understandable given that there are so many drugs around but only one chemical type of alcohol, although there are many flavours of it. However, I hope that no one would use that factor as an argument against making an extra effort with regard to diminishing drug-driving.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, rightly and very properly referred to the problems of people driving with prescribed drugs in their system. I take anti-histamines at certain times of the year on a fairly regular basis. Indeed, about 30 years ago when I started taking them I was told that one day I would grow out of the condition that requires me to take them. I am still waiting but I live in hope. I do not take as many as I did then but certainly when I started taking anti-histamines before the 1988 legislation was in place and before I learnt to drive, there is absolutely no doubt that I would have been unfit to drive. The drugs then had not been developed to the extent that they are now. I certainly would have had to change the drugs I took in order to be able to drive safely. But that level of awareness is simply not present in the public

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mind with regard to something as simple as anti-histamines or something far more complex such as sleeping pills that may be prescribed.

Just because that problem exists does not mean to say that we cannot tackle the problem of those who take illegal drugs. My noble friend is right to bring forward the Bill to target—as a Private Member's Bill should—a specific issue that can be readily identified and in relation to which there is a gap in legislation.

Noble Lords referred in some detail to research and statistics and therefore it would be improper of me to repeat that. They made their point forcefully. The Bill provides a practical way of dealing with the consequences of drug-driving where controlled drugs are being taken. It makes using a motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled drug an aggravated offence. It gives a policeman the power to carry out a field impairment test or require a blood test if he reasonably suspects that a driver is under the influence of controlled drugs. It makes provision for the keeping of records that would help us to track the seriousness of the problem. The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, made the important point that that part of the Bill would give us the vital impetus to carry out further research which would be of value across the board in trying to reduce accidents on the road.

This is a valuable Private Member's Bill. I support it and I hope that the Minister will welcome it.

2.4 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, and to all who have taken part in the debate. They have drawn attention to a problem which is recognised. It is clear from research that it is increasing in the sense that misuse of controlled drugs is increasing. Clearly, these are issues with which we must be concerned in road safety terms.

I want to show, first, that the Government are very much seized of the problem which the Bill addresses; secondly, that we have done rather a lot about it; and, thirdly, that there are more things which we can, and should be, doing. The evidence that we are seized of the problem is clear from the Department for Transport's Road Safety Strategy. Without going into detail, the strategy recognises the need for further research, for support for the police in enforcing existing legislation, improved police powers and targeted publicity and education. I shall say more about all of those points.

There are three strands in this argument: first, the extent of the problem; secondly, the effects of drugs on driving; and, thirdly, enforcement issues. On the extent of the problem, noble Lords mentioned the research done by the Transport Research Laboratory. It is certainly the case that of victims of fatal road accidents and, indeed, driver victims—oddly enough, the statistics are about the same—research shows that 18 per cent show signs of illicit drugs, mainly cannabis—I shall come back to that—and 6 per cent show signs of medicinal drugs. I shall not use the term "prescribed drugs" as some of them are drugs that are available over the counter.

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Clearly, there is some evidence on that point. But the difficulty about the statistics that the Bill calls for is that there is no statutory limit which covers the whole range of drugs which can affect driving. It is not that we are unwilling to make a statutory limit or that there is a resource problem, but that there are scientific problems in defining a statutory limit. In other words, where the Bill states that there should be blood tests and uses the phrase "tested positive", which is what is used for alcohol, that simply does not work across the wide range of drugs, both controlled and medicinal. Both my noble friend Lord Faulkner and the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, recognised that point. It is not that we are dragging our feet about statistics, but that there are genuine problems. Other than stopping people at random when they are driving and forcing them to take impairment tests and various kinds of physical tests, there would be very great difficulty in extending the research beyond what has been done so far.

The trouble with the research that we have, and any research that we could do, on the effect of drugs on driving is that it does not give evidence of causation. We have to look at impairment of driving rather than the presence of drugs that might or might not impair driving. Again, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, gave the example of cannabis, which stays in the bloodstream for up to 28 days, long after there could be any impairment effect on driving. The area is hugely difficult, and I am afraid that it is not adequately addressed by the analogy in the Bill between alcohol and drugs in terms of testing and impairment.

As has been said, 26 police forces are already engaged in programmes of training on enforcement. They are difficult programmes that take a couple of days, and are of two kinds. The first is on drug recognition—the outward signs of the presence of drugs—and recognition of which kinds of drugs cause which behavioural or physical effects. The second is on the use of field impairment testing. I do not need to go into that as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, kindly did so for me, but there are seven alternative tests. We recognise the problem that, at the moment, there is no compulsion at the roadside on a driver to undergo impairment testing. We recognise that new legislation will be necessary to enhance the police powers for screening, so that we can screen suspect drivers for drugs.

There are hopeful signs. I am glad to say that the police have been able to issue a specification to manufacturers who could produce roadside testing devices. They would not necessarily take blood samples, but could use other intimate samples, of which the most obvious is saliva. The problem will always be that any testing device will test one drug or a range of drugs, but different testing devices will test different drugs and different ranges of drugs. It is really quite difficult to find something manageable, portable and useable at the roadside.

That leads us to have to rely on the judgment of the police as to whether it is appropriate to take a driver in for more elaborate testing for drugs, with the intention

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of prosecution in order to reduce road accidents. What is important is reaching a judgment. If the police have available field impairment tests and, as we can develop them, physical tests, they can increase their confidence in reaching a judgment on when a driver may be impaired, on when it might be due to drugs, and on being able to make arrests in the end. That is the scope of the problem.

There are problems with the Bill, all of which have been recognised in the debate. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, recognised some of them. The Bill states that there should be an offence of driving "under the influence" of a controlled drug. Section 4(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 contains the offence of being unfit to drive through drink or drugs. Section 4(5) defines what unfit means as,

    "for the time being impaired".

We think that there is a better test and offence in that Act than in the Bill because "under the influence" is not really measurable.

I understand what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, says about a Private Member's Bill being restricted, but there is no rational justification for the Bill's including controlled drugs but not medicinal ones that can impair driving.

A third problem is that, as my noble friend Lord Faulkner recognised, the Bill imposes lower penalties than those for offences under Schedule 4 to the Road Traffic Act. As we were reminded, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, spoke only yesterday in favour of heavier sentences for driving dangerously when impaired. Therefore, there are difficulties there.

I have problems with the implication in new Section 40C that there can be a level or statutory limit which would allow the phrase "tested positive" to be effective. That really is a difficulty in relation to the Bill. In addition, the Bill provides for more resources for research. We all entirely agree with that, but it is not resources that are restricting researching at present.

In conclusion, we believe that there is a need not to have a new offence, but to make the offence work. We believe that means that there will have to be powers to enforce roadside impairment testing and roadside drug screening, both of which are referred to in the Bill. I recognise and welcome that. I can never promise what will be in future legislation or when future legislation will be dealt with, but we intend to address both those issues in future legislation as soon as possible. Meanwhile, although I cannot offer support for the Bill, I welcome it as a serious contribution to debate on an important subject.

2.15 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am most grateful to all who have taken part in this small debate at what is now becoming a somewhat late hour on a Friday afternoon. It has been an extremely good debate. I do not intend to try to answer every point raised in the names of individual Members, although I shall mention one or two. But common themes have run through the remarks.

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The first is the lack of research carried out in this field and the need to have more knowledge and information. The second theme is the general lack of public information or, indeed, of public concern about the issue of driving under the influence of drugs. There is the specific and huge problem of prescription drugs, which is specifically left out of this small Bill. We touched on the issue of police training, and it is very gratifying to hear what has been done.

I am particularly grateful for the response of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, because it has given us a very detailed picture of the work that the Government are doing. I certainly did not bring forward the Bill with any view that the Government were not doing as they should. That was certainly not my intention. The purpose of introducing the Bill was to give everything even greater impetus.

One or two questions were raised both by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, about the problems of enforceability of the requirement to test. It seems to me that we might perfectly well be able to deal with that during the passage of the Bill, assuming of course that it makes progress. We could deal with those matters, as perhaps we could with the question of sentencing, if that is not appropriate in a Private Member's Bill. But sentencing is already dealt with in the Bill and the scales could be adjusted to match what is required under the Road Traffic Acts.

The purpose of the Bill is serious: it is to deal with the issue of driving under the influence of controlled drugs. It makes driving an offence if a person has any of those drugs in his system. I have heard nothing that convinces me that we should not treat the Bill with a confident hope that it will make progress.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

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